I believe the end product will have an optional customization option for the founding members. The “divisiveness” comes from a vocal minority like GOD who had strict parents that never allowed fun. It only ever makes sense to have it in the game.
What I’m emphasising is the need for good, tight design. That’s how you make a great game, rather than a forgettable one (people still play HoMM 2 and 3, while HoMM 4 is barely mentioned). A feature that seems fun on its own can ruin the kind of play experience that you’re trying to create. I’ve yet to see anyone actually address my arguments regarding that, just that they think it would be a fun addition. There’s tons of things that I think would be fun to add on their own, but that I wouldn’t want to see implemented because they don’t suit the game, would take too much effort and ultimately make it less enjoyable. Stuff like having a group of eldritch abominations drive the populace of a city mad, so you have to kill them or the city turns into a new faction of twisted monstrosities. Having party members who turn undead be recruitable. Recruitable werewolves. Recruitable necromancers. Undead Roman legions rising from their graves to cull the living. Language mechanics for all the different spoken dialects. Orc mode – work your way up to chieftain of all the Orcs and make the human lands burn. Necromancer mode – carefully build up your undead horde; levels and skills of the raised transfer to your minion so finding powerful graves to use or slaying mighty enemies becomes vital. Ally yourself to one of the enemy factions and defeat both the humans and the other factions. Undead Alexander with his army wants to conquer the world once again – highly tactical and well-equipped undead that are always at confident morale, with a powerful leader. Long play games – games that take decades of in-game time and that can have you play as the descendants of your original band; new technology gets introduced as time goes by and new cities will rise and fall. Be a freedom fighter who has to balance undermining the rulers, while stopping the enemy from killing you all (intentionally letting bandits kill a caravan transporting a noble). Start as a small company and build yourself up until you are an army, with scaling gameplay (from individual control to unit control). A far larger world map that shows multiple nations which function as separate factions. Far more diversity in the enemy units – different Orc tribes should actually be different from each other and have different units and fighting styles. Cultural effects that spread and affect things like unit choice, aggression and gear worn (an Orc base that has been next to humans for a long time establishing minor trade and using some human style weapons and tactics, or humans that taken to the hunter-gatherer ways of the Orcs). Lots of other stuff that I think would be really cool, but you get the point.
I get the irritation at not having character creation, since it’s one of the features I love most in rpg-style games; but overall I agree with GOD that it’s not an important or useful addition to this particular game.
Being able to determine with any kind of specificity the attributes of your individual units undermines the feeling of being the head of a mercenary company, forced to deal with whatever recruits and difficulties come your way. In my estimation the fun and theme is not about designing any particular hero, it’s about managing a group of flawed grumbling men, and turning them into a fighting force. I would argue that, while the IMP system could be fun, it was actually damaging to the theme and consistency of JA2.
I think the actual problem that legitimately undermines some of the game’s fun, is that you’re getting a huge and completely random difficulty spike or drop based on no choices at all in the very beginning of the game. I think that a good solution (that has already been suggested in another thread somewhere) would be to have a wide choice over the ‘flavor’ of initial recruits, and a bit more connected backstory to exactly how your mercenary company was formed, and have that choice directly determine your difficulty. There could also be a choice of purely random recruits with the generic backstory.
Just for a couple examples, which I haven’t put much thought into:
“Holy Warriors” (Mid Difficulty) Monks and Flagellants – mid crowns – A group of clergy and zealots that have decided prayer is no longer sufficient to protect the weak
“Plowshares into Swords” (Mid Difficulty) Farmhands, Daytalers, Mill workers, Fishermen, Militia, Hunters – Low crowns – Upjumped peasants that have fled their lord’s land for a chance at glory and fortune
“Professionals” (Low Difficulty) Veteran soldiers, Deserters, Militia, Swordmasters – Mid crowns – Soldiers that have abandoned or mustered out of their units for a bigger payday
“The Guild” (Low Difficulty) Masons, Bowyers, Apprentices, Historians – High Crowns – Former craftsmen and tradesmen that first banded together to protect culture and the industry in the region from the devastation that surrounds them. Found the work more profitable than their former trades.
“From the Gutters” (High Difficulty) Beggars, Killers on the Run, Cultists, Thieves, Poachers – Low Crowns – The low and disenfranchised, turned to mercenary work out of desperation
“Second Sons” (Very Low Difficulty) Bastards, Disowned Nobles, Ambitious Nobles, Hedge Knights – High Crowns – Minor or former Nobility, striking out to make their fortune in the real world
Anyway, just my two cents on the issue. I trust the developer’s instincts so far, so I’m sure they’ll make wise decisions moving forward.
It’s usually one of my favourite parts of the game too. Loads of fun to look at all the options you have and come up with all sorts of different characters to play. Then come back once you beat the game and try something else. Really looking forward to Serpent in the Staglands for that kind of thing. However, I can definitely see why this game doesn’t have it.
Can’t you already influence that difficulty though by choosing the difficulty you start on? So far I’ve found that it is your starting gear that is more influential on how difficult the start is, rather than your traits (unless they’re utterly abysmal, which rarely happens). The difficulty setting changes nothing beyond your starting gold, so you’re essentially deciding how good your start is going to be. I’ve been finding myself appreciate that more and more. It’s a very elegant solution.